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Thursday, September 23, 2021

A professor and the pandemic, &c.

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The Arch at the University of Georgia in Athens (SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images) Georgia Bulldogs, a Cuban hero, Daniel Pearl, a horse drug, Ashli Babbitt, a high pianissimo, and more

Irwin Bernstein is a retired professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, 88 years old. He unretired in order to help out the department and its students. He was known as a “retiree-rehire.” But as this report tells us, he is retired again — presumably for good. Why? Because a student refused to wear her mask properly. Bernstein explained to her that he had diabetes, hypertension, and other health concerns, and wanted to be prudent about COVID-19. On his blackboard was “No mask, no class.” Two students were absent on this day because they had tested positive for COVID.

At any rate, the student ignored the professor’s pleas. Apparently, she just didn’t care. So the professor resigned, on the spot. He simply gathered his things and walked out. Before leaving, he said to the students that he had risked his life for his country while in the Air Force — but he would not risk his life to teach a class with an unmasked student during a pandemic.

The professor was forbidden to require his students to wear masks. He was powerless. He had no leverage — except to plead, which was unsuccessful. I know that mask debates are complicated. We all know that individual rights must be balanced with communal responsibilities — and respect for other people’s rights.

In any event, I can’t help thinking, with some asperity, of a coinage of a friend of mine (also a professor, as it happens): the “right-to-infect states.”

• “Leading Cuban dissident ordered to serve four-year prison sentence.” That is a headline from Reuters, over this article. The dissident in question is José Daniel Ferrer, one of the best — one of the bravest, clearest, and most persistent. There ought to be monuments to such people, when such monuments can be built, in a free, or freer, Cuba.

• Bari Weiss is to receive

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